Ireland delays decision on controversial fund

 

IRELAND WILL decide whether to continue funding the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria after its board meets in May to discuss an internal audit which found at least $34 million (€25 million) was misused.

The Global Fund has dismissed media reports claiming that billions of dollars may have been siphoned off, but confirmed that the misappropriation of $34 million had been uncovered in nine countries by its own inspector general, after investigations in 33 countries.

The revelations prompted Germany and Sweden to suspend payments to the UN-backed Global Fund – the biggest single source of financing to tackle the three diseases – until the matter is thoroughly investigated. Germany is the third largest donor to the fund, whose annual budget is more than $20 billion (€14.5 billion).

The Government has provided €39.6 million to the Global Fund over the last three years, and Ireland sits on its board.

In a statement, Irish Aid, the Government’s overseas aid division, said the misappropriation of development funding was “unacceptable” and Ireland took any such allegations “extremely seriously”. It said it had been in close contact with the Global Fund in relation both to the internal audit findings and measures being taken to recover the monies unaccounted for and bring proceedings against those responsible.

“At a board meeting in December, which was attended by Ireland, the Global Fund’s board of directors reviewed the measures taken to detect and prevent fraud,” Irish Aid said. “The board was supportive of the strong action taken by the inspector general to identify misuse of funding, pursue those responsible and implement additional security measures.”

Irish Aid said the board of the Global Fund would meet again in May to consider three reports on the matter, including one by the fund’s inspector general.

“Following detailed analysis of these reports and discussion, Ireland will make a decision on funding for the Global Fund in 2011,” it added. “Ireland attaches enormous importance to the maintenance of robust internal and external auditing functions, both within Irish Aid and among our funding partners.”

John O’Shea of Goal called for Ireland to follow Germany and Sweden. “It is absolutely disgraceful that large amounts of monies donated to the Global Fund for the fight against killer diseases appear to have been stolen or misused. As Germany and Sweden have done, the Irish Government must immediately suspend all contributions until the results of a comprehensive investigation are known – and until it is certain that proper accounting mechanisms have been put in place.”